I have always been a creative little being, from as young as I can remember I always had a pencil in hand to draw something about my day or about something that I loved, like my family or my pets, I often presented them to my grandparents, parents or aunties and uncles with great pride. It was clear from a very early age that my life would always consist of, and even be driven by something creative. When I was 13 I had a pretty serious operation that would lead to me being in hospital for many months, through the days of my recuperation my colouring and craft books were my own little sanctuary, in the early evenings my friends would visit me after school with all the tales and troubles of the day, and as they talked about school I remember the longing to be back in art and textiles lessons – I guess you could say creativity was just ‘in’ me. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t the best at these subjects, (I wasn’t the best at many subjects) but they were where I felt most valued, most free and the most safe and secure. I remember getting my first sewing matching for Christmas and just feeling so excited to start experimenting.
As I got older, I knew that art, design and craft were simply who I was. It was what I would do, whether that was professionally or personally, I would never put my pencil, paintbrush, sewing machine down for good. I studied Textile Craft at the University of Huddersfield – what a fantastic experience this was! I was exposed to many different processes and techniques and experimented in many different media. Many of the people I met here became my lifelong friends and fellow crafters. However, I still hadn’t found ‘my craft’. The thing that I could see me focusing on and really becoming me, until the very last year at university I took a class in silversmithing, and that – as they say – was history. I never looked back, I just knew it was what I needed to do, it brought out a creative spark in me that hadn’t been ignited before. I simply fell in love, I had my own style that people seemed to enjoy, so from that day on I started to save and save so that I could begin to buy pieces of equipment to make small and rather humble pieces of jewellery.
However, life has its challenges as we all know, and when I left university, I found it very hard to get a job within the arts that I felt wasn’t ‘corporate’. I had a few little jobs and ended up in an office in Manchester where all creativity was ripped from me until I got home each night and whipped out the sewing machine or sketch pad, just to bring some sanity back into my life. It was at this point I decided teaching art and design might be the best way in this very ‘adult’ world to be allowed to be creative in a workplace with a secure wage – and so, I applied to complete my teacher training in Design Technology in Manchester.
Fast forward nine years and I found myself in a job I hated, dare I say it, even more than the Manchester office job, while I could be creative, it was absolute controlled creativity with very little space for any sort of movement because I must have something to mark with what went well and even better if, at the end of each lesson – be a practical one or not. I was too tired at the each of every night to even think about getting some jewellery made or developing my craft to become better in my field – I guess, you could say not using my creativity to the best of my ability drove me crazy, I became frustrated at myself. So, two years ago, I quit my teaching job, with absolutely no idea what I would do next. I worked from home improving and developing my jewellery, my Etsy shop and my social media platform.
On June 16th 2018, I opened OnlyWillow jewellery and gifts which is a local and online shop that showcases my silver jewellery, while I work in the studio at the back of the shop. The shop is also a platform that supports people just like me, many of them teachers, or crafters with other jobs, just creating things to keep them sane and reducing stress from the other pressured jobs they have. The shop is a place where crafters can feel valued, free, safe and secure.